Well, we all knew it was a near certainty. But waking up to the reality of it is a whole 'nother thing entirely.
As John Cena kicks off his twelve WWE Championship (and fifteenth run at the top, when we factor in his three previous runs holding only the big gold belt), let's look at both sides of a WWE landscape wherein we can't see the guy holding both top titles.
On the one hand:
1) Cena is an undisputed top draw.
There's a long list of evidence showing that house shows are better attended, television shows more frequently watched and more pay-per-views (PPVs) are bought when fans know that John Cena will be front and center.
He's not "our" guy, where "we" are the hardcore/smart fans who make up what most consider to be the internet wrestling community (IWC), but he still creates a reaction in us. We may be chanting "Cena Sucks", but we show up to see what happens to and around his character. And there are at least an equal number of paying customers who love the guy, and will buy each neon colored shirt that is released with his name on it.
So at a time when business and financial news has not been good for Vince McMahon's company, it's understandable why he'd to turn to a proven money maker like Cena. It might not be the boldest strategy, but when you're getting your ass handed to you in the business press for launching an over-the-top streaming service, you might want to go safe in your core business.
2) He could very well just be a transitional champ.
My boss is banking on this, and all signs pointing to it being the route they are going to take. The thinking goes that whoever is going to win here is just keeping the belts warm so that the man who conquered The Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania can beat the snot out of him and take them from him.
Cena is the perfect guy for that, because beating him not only gives a bit of a rub to whoever beats him - even a legit fighter like Brock Lesnar - but he can also survive it with almost no impact to his own reputation.
I can catastophize all kinds of scenarios where this goes wrong, or isn't even necessary (and I will in a second), but on the face of it, if obvious, and leaked, plans hold, we're dealing with less than two months of "the. champ. is. HERE."
3) It could be the thing that forces The Authority out of the main event.
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are killing it with their performances as heel authority figures. And they have been for quite a while.
But that quite a while has been quite a while. Their current story reached a logical end point at this year's Mania. But Daniel Bryan beat them. Trying to keep that alive before Bryan's surgery gave us a thoroughly middling Kane feud. The Evolution vs. The Shield side quest kept The Game busy - and also made it clear where The Authority angle should be focused right now.
While some might prefer that Step and Trips fade completely into the background for a while, the clearing out of every other on-screen power figure makes that unlikely. But let the main event be about your Cenas and Lesnars for the next several months while the McMahon-Levesque's focus on building up Seth Rollins and putting over Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns.
On the other hand:
1) Sticking with what works might be the worst thing for business right now.
The initial six month subscription commitments for those who signed up for the Network in the run-up to WrestleMania 30 will be ending soon. Is more of the same a good sales pitch to those folks? Or ending an event with the exact outcome that they came into it expecting?
I don't know. But in my demographic, the buzz was a lot louder when a new face like Daniel Bryan was closing out shows and shocking things like Lesnar beating Taker were happening. Having your new PPV end the same way so many of the last ten years worth of PPVs available in the archives did? That doesn't make the fan in me say, "I have to see this!"
Will fans flipping past USA Network on a Monday night stop because the same guy that was on there when they watched five years ago is still wearing the same outfit, talking the same way and wearing the same championship belts?
If Vince McMahon were the bold innovator and creative genius we've heard about so many times, you'd think this might be the time to book something daring and see what happens. Instead, we've gotten a new helping of the same thing we've been served so many times before. Do we really want to pay for that?
2) If he drops the belts, he's dropping them to a part-timer.
As great as Paul Heyman is at making Lesnar a presence even when he's not physically around, we might not be as satisfied with that when he's talking about titles we're used to seeing defended.
The last run with a champ who didn't work a full schedule was universally reviled. Granted, as big of a Rock mark as I am, I'd be the first to admit that Brock is ten times the worker that The Great One is. But that doesn't matter much if we don't see him again until Survivor Series.
Having the top prize, what should be the motivation for all of the characters on your show not be on your show is a heck of a creative problem to work around.
And what if the work around it by making sure it doesn't happen? What if Cena gets beaten half to death at SummerSlam but retains his title due to disqualification, leading to a third match with Lesnar somewhere down the line - after we've had six months or more of "the. champ. is. HERE."?
3) John Cena vs. The Authority
I want Hunter, Stephanie and crew to remain focused on the remnants of The Shield. But they very well could decide to split their attentions between Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins and the man holding the most prestigious prize in their company.
The WWE World Heavyweight Championship has been central to their motivations since their inception last August. Why would that change now? How much time does that leave for them to feud with Ambrose and Reigns?
Or do we allow our worst beliefs about old Jern to take over, and consider that one of the things he'll be doing as champ is making sure that he's on screen with the two hot young babyfaces of The Shield? Will we be as excited about Ambrose, or especially Reigns, if they're suddenly in the Cena's little buddy role?
Final Analysis: It will probably be fine, but the downsides are so much more damaging than the upsides are promising. I'm 20% excited and 80% afraid of what this latest John Cena title run will bring.
How about you, Cagesiders? Tell us what we're missing, and how you're feeling, about the champ who is once again HERE.